My partner and I were walking in the woods late one evening last week, as we usually do, in our mission to get some fresh air, exercise, but avoid seeing any familiar faces.
We usually leave the house around 5 p.m. and venture to one of the green spaces near our home. Because we go so late in the day, our walks usually end up with us emerging from the woods in complete darkness.
On this particular walk, I was feeling down and depressive, as usual. We walked on a small footpath from our car to the forest’s main path, Tyler (my partner) taking mental note of the turnoff so that we could return to our car in the dark.
We walked for about 30 minutes until we found a swampy area, marking the end of the trail. We sat on a bench overlooking a few snags, and watched a beautiful light sunset that only lasted a minute or so, with ducks and insects occupying small bits of air space.
When we walk in the dark, we’re provided with a thick introspective blanket that lets speech flow more freely, or provides comfort when it’s simply time to be silent. We spoke of Henry, and of what walking through the woods this late at night would have meant a few hundred years earlier (bandits, robbers, rapists and the like).
With me in the lead, when we returned to our small beaten path that brought us back to the car, it was hard to see where we were going. There were a couple of splits in the path that Tyler luckily took mental note of, and a few markers that I even recognized (a small patch of young trees that served as a little pee spot).
In the dark, noises are amplified and more startling. Your imagination (or survival instinct?) can turn a squirrel rustling in the leaves 10 feet away into a kodiak with teeth dripping in blood.
As I was reflecting on night sounds during our walk, I commented aloud that I didn’t care. My baby was gone, a bear could come and crush my skull and I’d be glad because I would be reunited with my Henry. Then nature thought it would be fun to call me out.
To our left, there was a loud crunching and grunty-noise, and I gave quite an impressive shout of fear that pumped adrenaline all the way down to my toes in the darkness of the woods. Whatever it was – we think it was a deer – ran off, and Tyler instinctively reached to protect me. Then, I laughed at myself. My tough-girl act of not caring if I was mauled to death right then and there didn’t stand up to the court of the outdoors and fight-or-flight instinct.
It shook off a bit of the funk I was clouded in that day. My legs and arms were giddy from the fear that punctured my evening walk, and I got to see that the dark place I have been living in since finding out I was losing my baby had limits.
On our way home, I sat in the passenger seat of the car thankful for Tyler, thankful for the woods, thankful for the dark of night, and thankful for solitude with the love of my life. Even if my child was gone, I wasn’t alone.